As executive director of Madeira Promotion Authority, Nuno Vale has played a crucial role in navigating Madeira’s tourism economy through the challenges set by Covid-19. Here he shares his insights and experiences about how the volcanic islands are becoming a hotspot for remote working.
Breaking Travel News: What is the current status of inbound tourism in Madeira?
Nuno Vale: Given the way the islands managed Covid-19, being considered one of the safest destinations in Europe, tourism grew steadily till October last year.
After November with the outbreak of a new wave of the Covid-19 virus, and the new virus mutations, tourism slowed dramatically, as in all major touristic destinations.
So, currently international tourism is at a very slow pace and Madeira, like other destinations, is experiencing a small inbound tourism.
Nonetheless, there are some operations that are resilient and continue to operate so far, irrespective of the pandemic situation at origin.
Breaking Travel News: How is your Digital Nomads Village for remote workers progressing? And how does this fit in with your overall tourism strategy?
NV: As a year-round destination, with good climate throughout all year, Madeira has been a destination proper for long stays and for repeated visits during the year.
With the pandemic and the increase of ‘workation’ activities, the destination was naturally and organically chosen by digital nomads.
Government and private initiatives further developed the offer, where the Digital Nomads Village in Ponta do Sol is a great example.
This target fits in our overall niche targets selected by interests and further contributes for decreasing tourism seasonality in the region.
BTN: With the resumption of international travel thankfully back on the horizon, how do you see the next year mapping out for you?
NV: Before this last pandemic wave that affected generally all European markets, the prospects for the beginning of the year were very good.
However, the negative pandemic developments in Europe delayed the expected early tourism recovery.
Currently we expect a strong early summer pushed by domestic and proximity markets and late summer and winter by European wide markets.
Breaking Travel News: Describe the lockdown experience in Madeira, and how did this compare to normal times.
NV: Madeira Islands have been privileged when compared with other markets.
Since we have controlled strictly the entries in the region, controlling the spread of the virus, we were able to have light restrictions inside the region.
Currently we have a light lockdown, meaning that after 19:00-05:00 people should remain indoors, but in the rest of the time life is almost as normal with restaurants and shops fully open.
You are required though to respect the currently normal prevention measures, as keeping social distancing, use face masks and regularly sanitize your hands.
Breaking Travel News: Why is collaboration across the global travel industry essential to navigating the post-pandemic landscape?
NV: The lack of coordination amongst governments has made it very complex to consumers to navigate in all the laws and regulations in place, that change from country to country and many times from region to region inside the same country.
For a faster recovery it is important that the travel industry work in making the process for consumers easier and understandable.
Moreover, people require nowadays complete flexibility in order to lower travel risk.
The travel industry has to continue to work in coordination in order to give security to travellers.
Breaking Travel News: What trends in travel and tourism do you see emerging in the aftermath of the crisis?
NV: Most trends were already here before the pandemic.
The pandemic increased their importance and developed them faster.
I am referring to the search for more sustainable and authentic tourism and less cluttered tourism.
The trend for healthier lifestyle, active nature outdoor tourism.
People are looking for more gratification as well, so wine and food and wellness will continue to be tourism products of importance.
With the pandemic people became more digital savvy but more risk averse, so they want the easiness of buying online but probably with more service and security attached.
BTN: Have you had any positive changes in your own outlook in reaction to the crisis?
NV: We experienced a change in the consumer segments we were attracting.
As a region with high service standards, we always had a good retention ratio of our tourists, so much were repeated visits.
With the pandemic we experienced plenty of tourists coming to our region for the first time.
More families, more younger travellers, more digital nomads.
These target groups have been exploring the region and taking advantage of all it has to offer.
We believe the pandemic has broaden naturally our prospect target market.
Find out more about the Madeira Promotion Authority on the official website.
Images: Madeira Promotion Authority